Yardbarker's Week 15 NFL picks, game previews
Chris Mueller
Posted: 2019-12-13

In Week 15, Houston and Tennessee play for control of the AFC South in Nashville, and Pittsburgh plays host to Buffalo on Sunday night in a battle for the AFC's top wild-card spot. Yardbarker previews each game with a pick against the spread. Weekly point spreads are from BetOnline.ag. They are current as of 10 p.m. ET Monday. For the latest spreads, check BetOnline.ag.


TV: FOX LINE: Seattle -6

What you need to know: In Week 14, the Seahawks lost to the Rams. Worse, RB Rashaad Penny was lost for the season with an ACL injury. His absence means more work for Chris Carson and more pressure for Russell Wilson. Wilson is on a bad run, posting four straight games with a passer rating under 100 (league average 91.2). Seattle s defense is not a strength, so unless Wilson regains his MVP form, the Seahawks could be in trouble. Carolina, which laid an egg against Atlanta in Week 14, is a mess.The Panthers must figure out their quarterback situation and find more talent on offense to complement RB Christian McCaffrey. Most of all, they need to fix a defense that is 27th in the league in points allowed.

On the spot: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. He has four interceptions and four touchdown passes in his past four starts, after starting the season with 22 touchdowns and one interception. He must be better if the Seahawks are going to wrest the NFC West crown from San Francisco.

Panthers QB Kyle Allen: His future with the Panthers, and in the NFL, could be strongly influenced by the way he finishes what has become a lost season. If he rediscovers his early form, he might give the Panthers something to think about for their future.

The pick: Seahawks 27 Panthers 24


TV: FOX LINE: Philadelphia -4.5

What you need to know: On Monday night, Philadelphia was headed for its most embarrassing loss of the season before Carson Wentz rallied the team to an OT win. The star was RB Boston Scott, who racked up 128 yards from scrimmage and rushed for a touchdown in just his second career start. Scott was a needed jolt of life for an offense that has struggled to produce points, averaging just 19 in its past five. For the Redskins, rookie QB Dwayne Haskins is struggling mightily (passer rating 61,2; league average 91.2). Against the Packers in Week 14, RB Derrius Guice was effective until a knee injury knocked him out of the game; he's done for the season, meaning more touches for vet RB Adrian Peterson.

On the spot: Eagles RB Boston Scott. Hisability to provide a change of pace and make splash plays in both the run and pass game could be the dimension the Eagles need to jump-start their offense, particularly with WR Alshon Jeffery done for the season.

Redskins QB Dwayne Haskins: The loss to Green Bay officially eliminated the Redskins from playoff contention, so the only thing left for them to focus on is Haskins development.

The pick: Eagles 26 Redskins 13



What you need to know: In Week 14, Jameis Winston played a typical Jameis Winston game, throwing for five touchdowns though one of them went to the Colts Darius Leonard. Winston has been a mess all season, with 26 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, the latter figure seven clear of Baker Mayfield for most in the NFL. Winston s contract is up after this season. In Week 14 against Minnesota, Detroit rookie QB David Blough found out the hard way that the NFL is an unforgiving league. He threw two interceptions and was largely ineffective against the Vikings. The Lions are still injured and sidelined QB Matthew Stafford s team, so RB Bo Scarbrough s performance might be of more interest to Lions fans (and fantasy football owners).

On the spot: Buccaneers LB Shaquil Barrett. He has a good chance to break Tampa s season sack record of 16.5, held by Warren Sapp. Barrett has 14.5 and is a free agent after this season. Every sack he piles up the rest of the season drives his price higher.

Lions RB Bo Scarbrough: Scarbrough (301 yards rushing) has a chance, if he finishes the season strongly, to have a major role with Detroit in 2020. The Lions haven t had a back top 1,000 yards in a season since Reggie Bush in 2013, so finding a mainstay at the position is a priority.

The pick: Buccaneers 34 Lions 20


TV: FOX LINE: Green Bay -4.5

What you need to know: Mitchell Trubisky is finally delivering what the Bears expected when they picked him second overall in 2017. Trubisky has six touchdowns and two interceptions in his past two outings, completing 75.3 percent of his passes in that span. Chicago is still alive for a playoff spot, though it must win out to have a chance. In Week 14, the Packers didn t make it look particularly easy or pretty against Washington, but they won to stay ahead of the Vikings in the AFC North. Green Bay controls its destiny for a first-round bye in the NFC. If the Packers win out, they can finish no worse than second in the conference, and with a few other breaks, they would have a shot at the top overall seed in the NFC.

On the spot: Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky. His sudden surge has taken the Bears from all but out of the playoff race to knocking on the door. Can he make it three great games in a row?

Packers RB Aaron Jones: Hehas already established a career high in rushing yards (779). A strong finish to the season would not only give him a 1,000-yard campaign, it would drive home the idea that the Packers are balanced, and therefore more dangerous, on offense.

The pick: Packers 24 Bears 17


TV: CBS LINE: Tennessee -3

What you need to know: No team was worse in Week 14 than the Texans, who followed up their demolition of New England with a no-show performance against Drew Lock and the Broncos. Houston goes as its stars go, so QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins need to be great. The Texans secondary must also improve dramatically, or else it could be strafed again. Tennessee's Ryan Tannehill has looked like the best quarterback in the NFL over the past four weeks, throwing nine touchdowns and one interception, and posting a 144.2 passer rating (league average 91.2 overall). In that same span, Derrick Henry has rushed for 599 yards on just 86 carries, or just under seven yards per carry. WR A.J. Brown has emerged as a big-play threat, with three touchdowns and a 26.9 yards-per-catch average in his past four games.

On the spot: Texans S Justin Reid. He has allowed five touchdown catches and a 119.5 passer rating when targeted this season. The five touchdowns are the most of any Texans defender. Tannehill will doubtless attack Reid and the middle of Houston s defense.

Titans WR Corey Davis: Brown s emergence as Tannehill s favorite target has meant diminished production for Davis, but if he can make the Texans pay for their efforts to stop Brown, the Titans will likely score a lot.

The pick: Titans 34 Texans 24

MIAMI (3-10) AT NY GIANTS (2-11), SUNDAY, 1 ET

TV: CBS LINE: New York -3.5

What you need to know: In Week 14, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick struggled against the Jets, and the Dolphins couldn t generate anything resembling a traditional running game. Miami has nothing to play for, so this game is primarily a proving ground for young players looking for a bigger role next season. The Giants had the Eagles on the ropes on Monday night, but Eli Manning could not generate much offense in the second half, and New York was unable to hold on to its 17-3 halftime lead. Manning showed he had something left, hitting two deep touchdowns to Darius Slayton. He'll get the start again with rookie Daniel Jones nursing a high ankle sprain.

On the spot: Dolphins K Jason Sanders. He kicked a franchise-record seven field goals against the Jets in Week 14, but it wasn t enough. He might have a chance for a similar encore against the putrid Giants.

Giants WR Darius Slayton: Slayton s effort against the Eagles marked the third time this season that he has had two touchdown catches in a game. If he continues to develop, he could be a major weapon to grow alongside Daniel Jones.

The pick: Giants 20 Dolphins 17


TV: CBS LINE: Kansas City -10

What you need to know: In Week 14, rookie Drew Lock turned in the most surprising performance by a quarterback, shredding the Texans for 309 yards and three touchdowns on 22-for-27 passing. Broncos fans have suffered through Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian, to say nothing of Joe Flacco s abysmal work this season. Is Lock legit? In Week 14, the Chiefs weren t spectacular, but they were effective in beating New England. Kansas City s defense was the story, as it held New England to 278 yards and sacked Tom Brady three times. The win was even more impressive because Patrick Mahomes played the majority of the game significantly hindered by a badly bruised throwing hand. The Chiefs got a statement win, and at least a small measure of revenge for last year s AFC Championship Game loss in K.C..

On the spot: Broncos QB Drew Lock. His development over the last three games of the season will be the only story Denver fans care about, and rightfully so. A win over the Chiefs would be a big statement.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes: His hand injury forced a change to Kansas City s offensive strategy against the Patriots, and with Denver s newfound firepower, that might cause a problem for the Chiefs.

The pick: Chiefs 31 Broncos 14


TV: CBS LINE: New England -9

What you need to know: The Patriots offensive struggles have been replaced by another headline-making story. The NFL is probing an incident in which a Patriots video crew shot video of the Bengals sideline during a game against the Browns. That's a no-no. In Week 14 against K.C., Tom Brady was terrible again, and New England couldn t run the ball with any consistency. If it can t get it going against the Bengals rush defense, which has surrendered the most yards in the league, it might be panic time for the Pats. Cincinnati got back to its losing ways against Cleveland in Week 14, failing to score a touchdown in the second half after trailing 14-13 through 30 minutes. Joe Mixon was a bright spot, rushing for 146 yards on 23 carries.

On the spot: Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett. After starting the season with three touchdowns in his first three games, Dorsett has just 13 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns in his past six. Brady needs more weapons; Dorsett must step up.

Bengals WR John Ross: He had two catches for 28 yards in his first game off injured reserve, but his speed might be the kind of attribute that causes the Patriots' secondary problems.

The pick: Patriots 26 Bengals 20


TV: CBS LINE: Minnesota -2.5

What you need to know: Minnesota can t afford to take its foot off the gas, because it still has an outside chance to win the NFC North. Also, the Rams and Bears are within striking distance of the NFC s final playoff spot. Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison weren t efficient, combining for 108 yards on 32 carries, but they were good enough to keep the Lions at bay in Week 14. The Chargers finally had a laugher, demolishing Jacksonville behind a near-flawless, three-touchdown effort from QB Philip Rivers in Week 14. Austin Ekeler was great, piling up 101 yards rushing and 112 yards receiving on just 12 total touches.

On the spot: Vikings WR Adam Thielen. He missed the Detroit game in Week 14, but the Vikings are optimistic that he will return against Los Angeles. If he does, and he looks healthy, it will give an already dangerous Minnesota offense another dynamic dimension.

Chargers RB Melvin Gordon: He had a quiet game against the Jaguars, but if Los Angeles is going to pull an upset and play spoiler, he must have a big game against Minnesota. The Vikings have allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns in the league (5).

The pick: Vikings 26 Chargers 20


TV: CBS LINE: Oakland -6.5

What you need to know: In Week 14, the Jaguars humiliated themselves again, losing their fifth straight game by at least 17 points, a dubious feat not seen since the 1986 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Head coach Doug Marrone, still employed, cited a lack of confidence as a major problem for his players. It looks like they have simply quit. Oakland s playoff dreams are all but dead after it couldn t keep pace with Ryan Tannehill and the red-hot Titans in Week 14. QB Derek Carr was good, but Josh Jacobs absence (shoulder) was too much for Oakland to overcome.

On the spot: Jaguars HC Doug Marrone. He is likely coaching his last handful of games with Jacksonville, so the question becomes whether or not he can coax enough of an effort from the team to land on his feet after the season ends. Rookie QB Gardner Minshew playing well would help with that.

Raiders QB Derek Carr: His dead cap hit for next season is just $5 million; it s fair to wonder if Jon Gruden would rather tinker with his quarterback situation than stay the course.

The pick: Raiders 30 Jaguars 16


TV: CBS LINE: Cleveland -2

What you need to know: Cleveland is almost certainly done as a playoff contender, but the Browns still have a chance at a winning season. Even in victory in Week 14, rumors swirled about WR Odell Beckham s unhappiness, and QB Baker Mayfield ripped the team s training staff for the way it has handled Beckham s injuries. The Browns haven t completely crumbled like they could have after a 2-6 start, but this season looks like a major disappointment. In Week 14 against Pittsburgh, Arizona rookie QB Kyler Murray played one of his worst games as a professional, throwing three interceptions and looking uncomfortable against an aggressive, potent defense. He should find the going easier against the Browns, but what would really help Arizona is a steadier running game. RB David Johnson, mostly forgotten in the Cardinals offense, caught a touchdown against Pittsburgh, and had a few other positive plays.

On the spot: Browns QB Baker Mayfield. He must finish strongly for the Browns to have a good feeling heading into the offseason.

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray: He has scuffled against good defenses this season, but Cleveland shouldn t be able to apply near-constant pressure, as the Steelers did. He must be more decisive and confident with his decisions and throws.

The pick: Browns 24 Cardinals 23

LA RAMS (8-5) AT DALLAS (6-7), SUNDAY, 4:25 ET

TV: FOX LINE: Los Angeles -1

What you need to know: Have the Rams found something? Jared Goff threw two interceptions against Seattle in Week 14, but neither was his fault, and Los Angeles dominated. The defense seems to have turned a corner, and the offense has shown flashes of its 2018 form. The playoffs are still within reach. The Cowboys appear to have pushed Jerry Jones to his breaking point. In Week 14, Dallas suffered a frustrating, humiliating loss to Chicago, with Mitchell Trubisky shredding the defense. Jones snapped at a question during a radio interview last week, and if the Cowboys don t turn things around in a hurry, there will likely be many changes this offseason. We're looking at you, Jason Garrett.

On the spot: Rams WR Robert Woods. He is Los Angeles best receiver for the past month. If he continues to produce at a high level, the Rams offense should keep humming along.

Cowboys K Kai Forbath: Dallas finally cut struggling kicker Brett Maher, who made just 66.7 percent of his field goals this season. Forbath missed an extra point in his brief time with New England, and might not have much leash in Dallas.

The pick: Rams 27 Cowboys 17


TV: FOX LINE: San Francisco -11

What you need to know: Atlanta is 3-2 in its past five games, with the three wins coming by an average of 21 points. In a wild Week 14 win at New Orleans, the 49ers vaunted pass defense finally had a rough outing, as Drew Brees sliced it up for five touchdown passes. He was particularly devastating on deep and intermediate throws. As bad as that performance was, San Francisco s resiliency and Jimmy Garoppolo s effort were more eye-opening. The 49ers have a bevy of weapons offensively, and Garoppolo looks fully capable of using them. San Francisco looks like the NFC s best team.

On the spot: Falcons RB Devonta Freeman. Atlanta s offense is completely different when Freeman is able to run effectively. The Falcons could spring an upset if he can set up QB Matt Ryan in favorable situations.

49ers TE George Kittle: He made what may be the play of San Francisco s season with his 39-yard catch and run on a do-or-die 4th-and-2 against New Orleans. His numbers (60 catches for 754 yards) are down from last year, but he will be a major headache for the Falcons linebackers and secondary.

The pick: 49ers 27 Falcons 21


TV: NBC LINE: Pittsburgh -2

What you need to know: In a Week 14 loss, Buffalo held Baltimore to a season-low 257 yards and a season-low 118 yards rushing. Buffalo doesn’t have superstars on defense, but the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. Pittsburgh’s improbable season added another chapter in Week 14, when Devlin “Duck” Hodges became the first undrafted rookie quarterback to win his first three starts in a non-strike season. Hodges completed 16 of 19 passes, and in so doing toppled his second straight No. 1 overall pick and second straight Heisman Trophy winner (Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray) The real story, of course, is Pittsburgh’s defense, which intercepted Kyler Murray three times and crushed him on the Cardinals’ last-gasp drive.

On the spot: Bills QB Josh Allen. He was Buffalo’s weak link against Baltimore, completing just 17 of 39 passes for 146 yards and rushing for nine yards on two carries. He must find ways to escape the pocket and use his legs, or the Steelers will likely have their way on defense.

Steelers QB Devlin Hodges: He has quickly become a cult hero in Pittsburgh, but Buffalo’s defense is by far the best he will have faced this season. If he can play mistake-free football and make a few plays, the Steelers will likely win and his legend will grow.

The pick: Steelers 16 Bills 9


TV: ESPN LINE: New Orleans -9

What you need to know: In a Week 14 loss to the Bucs,the Colts finally had someone other than Adam Vinatieri kick, owing to the 46-year-old s season- and possibly career-ending knee injury. Chase McLaughlin was 3-for-3 on extra points and 2-for-3 on field goals. The Colts are all but dead in the playoff chase, and will wonder all offseason whether their loyalty to the struggling Vinatieri cost them. New Orleans squandered an opportunity to seize control of home field in the NFC playoff chase in Week 14 against the Niners, and is in danger of losing a first-round bye. The Saints might not be stressing about either of those things, though, because Drew Brees was spectacular against San Francisco s historically great pass defense. If Brees plays at that level in the playoffs, New Orleans will be tough to beat in any venue.

On the spot: Colts LB Anthony Walker. He struggled mightily in coverage against the Bucs, allowing multiple big plays over the middle. This shouldn t have come as a surprise; in 347 coverage snaps this season, his Pro Football Focus coverage grade is 60.2, a below-average mark.

Saints RB Alvin Kamara: He was quiet against the 49ers, with just 43 yards from scrimmage. Latavius Murray has been good when called upon by the Saints this year, but New Orleans offense will only be at its best if Kamara is at his.

The pick: Saints 34 Colts 21

NY JETS (5-8) AT BALTIMORE (11-2), THUR., 8:20 ET

TV: NFL NETWORK LINE: Baltimore -14.5

What you need to know: In Week 14, the Jets escaped with a win over Miami thanks to a rare pass interference challenge reversal and stout red-zone defense. Incredibly, Bilal Powell s 74 yards rushing were a game-high for a Jets back this season. Where are you, Le'Veon Bell? New York has allowed the second-fewest rushing yards in the league and fewest yards per carry. In Week 14, the Ravens put on an old-school clinic against the Bills, winning a defensive battle, with Lamar Jackson s playmaking ability the difference and Jimmy Smith showing Baltimore s secondary depth with a key pass breakup late in the fourth quarter. Jackson s interception against Buffalo was his first since a Week 5 win over Pittsburgh, when he threw three.

On the spot: Jets RB Bilal Powell. If Le Veon Bell doesn t go again, given the nature of his current situation, Powell will try to establish himself against a Ravens rush defense that is 23rd in the league in yards per carry against.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson: He is day-to-day with a quadriceps injury but is expected to play. The Ravens may have to rely on his arm more than his legs. Fortunately for them, he has proven more than capable.

The pick: Ravens 27 Jets 16

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